Starting each day with a mindfulness practice

Do you have a morning routine?

That’s kind of a trick question, because, even if you said no, chances are you do have a morning routine. Hitting the snooze button 5 times before getting out of bed, not having enough time to eat something healthy, and rushing to work can be just as much a morning routine as getting up early to stretch, meditate, and eat a healthy breakfast. The only difference is in how the two affect the rest of your day.

In this post I want to help you set yourself up for long term success by introducing a concept to you that has been the most powerful tool in my life since it was taught to me many years ago.

I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, this one concept has been the driving force behind the successes I have seen in every avenue of my life. It has improved my fitness, my career, the relationships with my friends and family, my mental and emotional health, and the relationship I have with myself.

I’m talking about the practice of mindfulness, or meditation.

It has been said that if you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. And if you are at peace, you are living in the present. I couldn't agree more, as meditation, the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment, has helped me dissolve my depressions and anxiety, and allowed me achieve more than I could have imagined.

If you’re like I was, the idea of sitting motionless of 30 minutes and focusing on nothing but your breathing sounds like hell on earth. In fact, that’s exactly what it felt like when I first tried to introduce it into my life. The first time I tried meditating was excruciating. I gave myself the goal of sitting down for 30 minutes for thirty minutes of meditation every morning before I started my day. Needless to say, I didn’t keep it up for very long. I had gone through several failed attempts like this, going for a few days at a time, then quitting for a few months before trying again, until I eventually gave up on the idea entirely.

Then, a number of years back, my older brother and I were having a conversation after a family dinner. I was going through the toughest part of my life at that point, and he knew it. I considered myself a massive failure. It was tough for me to be around my older brother because he had accomplished so much and was, in my opinion, the definition of a successful person. Without telling me I needed to meditate, he relayed his own story of how meditation came into his life and completely changed his course a time when he was battling similar problems to mine.

He mentioned that meditation didn’t have to be the long, 30 minute bouts of pure presence and enlightenment I had been trying for. In fact, it could be as short as a single minute to sit in silence and appreciate the moment. Hearing how meditation had helped him change his life, and with a new appreciation for what constituted meditation, I decided I’d give it one more go.

I challenged myself to a one week challenge to meditate in the morning for 5 minutes. I didn’t give myself the unattainable goal of emptying my mind of all thought, and I didn’t go into each session with the anticipation I would be walking away with some incredible insight or enlightenment. I just did my best to sit and appreciate the moment for what it was. And, you know what? It worked.

The very first sesion my spirits were lifted for the rest of the day. I felt more energized and had a sense of gratitude that wasn’t directly related to anything, but affected my appreciation for everything. As the days went on, my happiness and energy improved. My general outlook on life shifted form one full of negativity and feelings of being a failure to one of positivity and empowerment.

Years later, I am still meditating every morning. However, now I typically meditate between 20 and 30 minutes, but there are days when I’ll only do it for 5 minutes or so. My gratitude for everything meditation has brought to my life is difficult to express, as is explaining how it has helped me so much.

What I can say is, by having a regular practice of being present, I have taught myself to be more present during my regular life as well. As a result, I am more aware to opportunities when they arise that I might otherwise have missed. My relationships are better now that I am able to fully engage my attention with the person across from me. I understand my emotions and subconscious thoughts so they no longer control my actions and, in fact, now serve to fulfill my bigger goals. I have a deep appreciation and love for myself, and not just the good parts. Meditation has allowed me to love the parts of myself I used to think were failures, the parts I used to hide from people, the parts that I used to hide from myself. These are the parts that make me human and, once understood, help me understand why I do what I do. Plato said “Know thyself”.  Knowing who you are is the most empowering gift you can give yourself.

All those years ago, my brother gave me the greatest gift I have ever received. That is, the opportunity to consider meditation as something that could benefit my life. Today, I’d like to extend that opportunity to you. Start small. Start with 1 minute in the morning to sit still and focus on the moment, to be grateful for who you are and the people you have around you.

As always, thank you for joining in on today’s lesson, and all the lessons before it. I’m so grateful you allowed me to be a part of your journey. If you got something out of this course, please feel free to share with those who you believe it could benefit as well.